Dennis E. Haines
24th Evacuation Hospital Patient
Images Of Bravery Award


Nominee: Dennis E. Haines

Member, VVA Chapter 391, Sonora, California

Dates of Service    October 6, 1967 - March 13, 1969
Branch   U.S. Army
Decorations   Good Conduct Medal, Viet Nam Campaign Medal, Viet Nam Service Medal, Combat Infantry Badge, Viet Nam Cross of Gallantry Medal, Purple Heart
Occupation   Supervisor of the Engineering,
Facilities Planning and Construction Division,
Milton K. Hershey Medical School, Pennsylvania State University
Family Status   married, two grown sons, one finishing college
Home Address   200 S. Forge Road Palmyra, PA 17078,  (717) 838-6073

Sgt Dennis Haines on Patrol
Larger Image

It is with great honor we submit the name of Dennis E. Haines for the "Images of Bravery Award, 2004". Dennis was eighteen, had finished high school and was working on an Associate degree in Architectural Engineering when he was drafted in October 1967. On the night of December 6, 1968, as an E-4, he was leading his squad toward a suspected VC-occupied village. Two AK-47 rounds struck and blew away the right side of his head, and he was quickly brought to the 24th Evacuation Hospital in Long Binh, where Drs. John Baldwin (a sponsor) and Floyd Robinson operated on his brain. After a stormy post-operative week, it was apparent he would live, and he followed the usual path to Japan, then on to Walter Reed, where he was retired in March 1969 with 100% disability. Further surgery to place a plate in his skull and two more years of intense rehabilitation followed, but despite this, Dennis has essentially no use of his left leg or arm, and stands only for important events with the aide of a locking steel brace. He is unable to drive even "a handicapped equipped" vehicle, so that all transportation must be public or from loving friends and family.

Coming home half the man he once was, he remembers being booed and cursed at the airport and shunned by some of those kids who had once been his friends. On April 5, 1969, between hospitalizations, Dennis married the girl to whom he had become engaged before leaving for Viet Nam. They purchased a house, in which he still lives, raised two sons, and the marriage lasted seventeen years.  Over time, the situation became a growing burden and sadness for his wife. The experiences of his months in combat and lengthy rehabilitation had made him a different person than the one she had kissed goodbye in 1968.  "I want Dennis back the way he was before leaving for Vietnam instead of the one who came home," she said.  Seven lonely, independent years later, in 1995, he found his present wife, Barbara, "who never knew me differently than I am now."  His sons are great kids, the married older boy has presented him a grandson and the younger is a junior at Penn State, majoring in psychology.

The VA was very helpful in 1970, by getting him into an entry-level job at the new Hershey Medical Center at Penn State.  For ten years he supported his wife and two sons at this job, studying at night to get as much education as possible in the new field of "computer design". He discovered that the computer didn't care if he was paralyzed on the left side, and using his still intact left brain and skilled right hand, Dennis became extremely proficient at drafting, planning and space-organization.  Armed with samples of his work, he approached the Medical Center's Engineering Department, won that executive position and became a pivotal force in designing the burgeoning new hospital complex. "This has been a challenging and continual learning process and now my position also incorporates coordinating renovation and construction projects from beginning to end."

In 1992, he was diagnosed with Hepatitis C, no doubt from the nearly twenty blood transfusions we gave him following his initial injury. The current chemotherapy regimen is difficult and often exhausting, but Dennis gets to work each day, and bears no bitterness to either the men who drafted him or those who shot him, forever changing his life.  He could have come home, lay down and quit; instead, he chose to fight and wage what is obviously a life-long struggle to prevail against his disability and his memories. His contributions to family, community and to fellow veterans would be impressive for any individual, but to have accomplished all of this as a hemi-plegic, from a wheelchair, is unbelievable.  He is exemplary of what constitutes true bravery:  courage, persistence, loyalty, duty, honor, country and family.  It is, indeed, our pleasure to introduce this great veteran from Chapter 391 to the selection committee.

Mr. Haines Activities following his Viet Nam Service include:

  • Member, Hershey American Legion Post 386 (1969-present), Commander in 1975
  • Life member: Disabled American Veterans
  • Life member: Military Order of the Purple Heart
  • Life Member VFW Post 9639, Shellsville, PA (1996-present), Commander in 2002-2004
  • Member, Ronald McDonald House of Hershey
  • Supporting member, Hospice of Central Pennsylvania
  • Member, VVA Chapter 391
  • Youth Soccer Coach for ten years in his community
  • Director, Hepatitis C Support Group, Penn State/Hershey Medical Center
  • State-Certified VFW Service Officer
  • Numerous non-profit and church charitable organizations

Sponsor's addendum: Dennis and I were re-united in 2002 by a chance meeting on a Viet Nam veterans' website.  To be able to bond as surgeon and accomplished patient after 36 years has been emotionally uplifting and gratifying beyond description for both of us. (JNB)

Robert Law III, President VVA Chapter 391

John N. Baldwin, MD FACS, Board Member Chapter 391
Former Major USA, Chief of Vascular and Thoracic Surgery
24th Evacuation Hospital, Long Binh, 1968-1969

Contact: (209) 586-1127

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Updated: May 7, 2004